Justice Love - Service Progr Christians

Lutheran Speaker Calls For “Friends of Jesus” to Speak Up on Social Issues

[Here’s a submission from the Chicago area – notes from last Sunday’s guest speaker.]

Pastor Fred Aigner, President, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI.org)
(his sermon given Feb. 19th, 2006, my notes from memory.)

The Scripture

Scripture was Mark 2:1-12, where four friends of a paralytic bring him to see Jesus. Blocked by the crowd, they dug through the roof and lowered their friend into the room where Jesus was.

Aigner pointed out that the crowd was there to see Jesus, and yet blocked this man from receiving help.

Applied to Today

Today’s crowds seems to embody the belief that those in need must have done something wrong to be in their position of neediness, so they should have to figure it out on their own. Aigner asks us to not be the crowd, but to be the friends, willing to advocate for those in need.

Real Life Around Us

“What’s going on out there?” LSSI is seeing:

-more women and children in need
spread of drug use to suburbs and small towns (previously an urban problem); he referred to methamphetamines as an epidemic of major proportions

LSSI deals with people with major needs, who need long-term help. People often have more than one issue; homeless people often have health issues (no insurance), for example.

LSSI staff has shrunk from over 4000 to between 1800 and 2000 in the last few years.

“A budget is a moral narrative.” (He repeated this several times.)

Education and health insurance are holding their own in the state budget.

Social services get cut to balance the budget. Why is this? Because the people the social services budgets used to serve – the people LSSI represents – are the people with no voice:
-elders descending into dementia who don’t get out to vote
-drunks and addicts who in their altered state cannot remember to vote

LSSI places for adoption between 300 and 700 children per year, and has a real need for homes for medically challenged kids. There are currently about 18,000 kids in the system, down from 53,000 several years ago.

Lutheran Attitudes

LSSI recently commissioned a survey, receiving enough results to be statistically viable. The primary question was whether Lutherans should use their voices to influence public policy.

-74% very strongly in support
-22% support

So over 96% of Lutherans surveyed support or strongly support influencing public policy, despite the Lutheran history of quietism.


Aigner asks us all, as “friends of Jesus”, to raise our voices, talk to our representatives, take care of each other.

Our faith is an “audible” faith.

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  • I guess My church (Episcopalian, the U.S. branch of the Church of England)
    has a strong sacramental/liturgical practice, but though we have a lot of
    lukewarm believers ( Wealthy “Cadillac Christians”) There are many of us who
    strive to follow the whole Gospel. Though a South African Anglican, Archbishop
    Tutu has brcome a beacon for us. This has manifested itself as the “Community of
    rhe Cross of Nails”, an orginization dedicated to reconciliation, peace and justice.
    There are branches in Germany; you might want to look into this.

  • It’s nice from you to care, Richard, but I strongly doubt it. First of all I’ve never done any systematic inquiry into the actual spiritual frame of German denominations (or congregations within my reach); that’s perhaps a thing I should start to do very soon. As to Lutheranism, that’s no really identifying denominator any more. Half (the greater half!) of what counts for “Lutheranâ€? was merged nearly 200 years ago with the more Calvinistic rooted “Reformedâ€? churches into the evangelical “Landeskirchenâ€? (state churches) of the German Länder (or some comparable political units). And those tend, in my eyes, to build more on a liberal creed of social niceties than on the Gospel anyhow. Such a frame of mind does not produce Bonhoeffers (in any likelihood), but rather television preachers of the European fibre (no fanatics, as yours, but, well, I must confess how I see it, tending to the sapless and irrelevant). The other (smaller) half of Lutheranism is the independent church where I formerly did (and family does still) belong to. They are quiestists in the proper sense of the term. They are rather non-individualistic in the original matters of faith (sacramentalist, liturgical and very much centered around the pastor), but as to their political and social conscience they’re individualists too, perhaps even more so than Baptist (who do subtly give some collective marks of orientation in political matters, but, in my opinion, fairly false ones, nowadays).

    So, to sum it up, German Lutheranism is less prone to the neo-conservative political seduction of our times, but it is not my “hottest iron� in the fire when it comes to suspecting a congregation to grasp that it must (collectively) serve in some prophet’s role towards a new power-drunkenness and arrogance towards truth in the political realm. They’re all the more not even grasping any seriousness of the situation for this time the seduction coming from abroad and it is no German arrogance kicking against the prick of world opinion, but it is world opinion, including its German branch, which kicks against the (sorrily soft and invisible) “prick� of prophetic judgment that no civilization on the crest of its power is so nice as the political West likes to portray itself.

    I would rather first try to sort out the Methodist church. (That’s queer, for as far as I recollect, George W. Bush himself belongs to that church. But I also remember he was clearly challenged in his ways to presume a calling of God for venturing on his dirty war). That definitely needs inquiry. But upon a bit of browsing I was able to detect that they have an unequivocally respectful way to deal with the Word of God and “yet� manage to relate it meaningfully, genuinely and positively to the quest for peace and social justice. That is balm to my ears.

    But there’s an even more personal thing to sort out. I must answer the question to myself what exactly my relation with a congregation might be, in the best case, before deciding where to go. You know, I was a maverick ever since my schooldays, no since kindergarten. I’m quite aware of that, and it’s futile to think that will ever change completely. But I am certainly not indifferent towards my fellows, and I am increasingly aware of how much I need them, not “just� in the practical sense. So I must decide which kind of relationship towards a congregation as a whole is proper for me to aim at. Do I need spiritually AND politically like-minded persons around myself to buoy me up? There are a lot of aspects speaking for that, one of which being that I completely doubt the possibility of separating “spiritual� and “secular� aspects of mindset. But on the other hand, one could also make a case out of the idea that I am called to serve as some kind of “prick in the flesh� of those scores of well-meaning, but rather gullible people who otherwise threaten to run into the open knife of political seducers. And derive my self-esteem from performing that duty.

    Up to this juncture, there is neither any formally siding of German Baptists with Bush-like policies or even for the growing hatred against Muslims (though here they are the most endangered due to their fondness of Israel). Nor is there any real tension on the personal plane. And unless people close their ears voluntarily to a warning and challenging voice, have I any right to leave them before having helped them to that voice in all outspokenness. – I am looking for the answer to that question. Thanks for reading, thanks for answering.

  • With regards to Lutheranism in Germany,
    is there anything like the “Confessing
    Church” of the Nazi era? Maybe you could find
    a home there.

  • This post and esp. the opinion survey makes me think back rather kindly towards my former spiritual homestead. As I repeatedly mentioned, I converted from Lutheran to Baptist some years ago. Please, American Christians, when I write on this, always remember that the Continental-European conditions are somewhat different from what you are wont. Even so, I increasingly doubt I will endure the evangelical quietism (or more precisely the intense and, in my eyes, absurd degree of individualism, not to say: subjectivism, in the Baptist conception of faith) any much longer.

    It is like the frog, who frisks out of the pot when thrown into hot water, but is completely unable to take notice when being boiled in slow degrees. Exactly so, our western societies are steadily transformed into George Orwell settings of sociopathic behaviour and soul-destroying cynicism of public opinion, and individualist believers are completely unable to take notice. You may shake them, you may point out every single fact to them; they will rather agree with you that apocalypse is near then even dream of imagining this to hold the least significance for the way we must pray or profess our faith.

    I think, for the sake of my own sanity, I‘ll have to go out of that church the earlier the better. It is just I always abhorred the idea of slinking off. For there ARE a lot of people who „honestly“ ignore the facts, and those would fail to understand my move.